Monday, September 26, 2005

(More) Tales From the Trenches...

Sometimes - and I know that this will come as a complete surprise – I tick people off. Not necessarily on purpose, mind you, but by happenstance, or providence, or just plain luck. Today’s episode may be instructive:
Sally and I had been playing phone tag all week; we finally connected early this afternoon. Sally was interested in medical insurance for her husband, and she reminded me that we had discussed this last year. At the time, he had been cancer free for 4 years or so, and I had told Sally that carriers really preferred at least 5 years treatment and cancer free.
So, Sally informed me that it had now been five years, and asked what kind of plans and rates would be available. I suggested that, before we went through a lot of paperwork, perhaps she could tell me a little more about Rob’s current health.
“Oh, he still smokes, but he only takes one medicine, it’s [name of post-chemo med],” she informed me. I knew from experience that this particular med would render him uninsurable in the “standard” markets, and told her so.
“Oh, well, then, he’ll just stop taking it and we’ll say no on the application.” As one might imagine, I was less than sanguine about this suggestion, and I told her so.
“Well, we have ALL of our insurance through your agency; surely you can do SOMETHING.” You’ll be pleased to know that I didn't ask her to stop calling me Shirley, but I was still unable to help her. She continued, “otherwise, we’ll move all of our policies to another agency.”
This particular threat has never really moved me; if a client doesn’t understand that I really don’t make the rules, then there’s precious little that I can do to convince them to listen. So I expressed my regrets, and started to suggest another course of action.
But Sally was having none of that, and hurriedly closed the conversation, informing me that she would be calling back later to cancel her other policies.
Now, I thought about this for a while: someone had just threatened to fire me as her agent because I was doing my job in an ethical and reasonable manner. Isn’t that just the least bit odd? So I called a friend of mine, who agreed with my course of action, and asked if there was anything I could have done for Sally’s husband.
“That’s the funny part of this,” I said, ”I was trying to tell her that we have a high risk plan that may do the job, but she hung up on me before I could get all the words out.” My friend asked what I planned to do, and suggested that I shouldn’t punish Sally’s husband, who needed the coverage, for Sally’s unreasonable behavior.
He had a point.
So, about an hour later, I called Sally back, and explained that I did have access to a plan that might work for her husband, and that I had been trying to tell her that when she hung up on me. She apologized, and the upshot is that she asked me to start the paperwork on the new plan, and also to see what we could do for herself and her child.
Being right is good, doing right is better.
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